Think Twice Before Visiting This Popular Theme Park, As It's The Dirtiest In The US

As discerning consumers and travelers, we expect certain things for our tourist buck when we take a hard-earned vacation. We want value for money, good service, access to facilities and refreshments, and a great overall experience. We also don't want to wade around in other people's filth and trash, which can take the shine off even the best day out. Luckily, we have plenty of platforms to warn others about places that are lacking in satisfactory hygiene standards. In 2023, Upgraded Points compiled a list of the dirtiest vacation spots in the United States and found that Six Flags New England in Massachusetts topped the lot in terms of grubbiness.

The review analyzed user reviews on Tripadvisor and worked out what percentage of them contained the word "dirty." From all categories of attractions and destinations, amusement parks fared worst with 23% of all reviews including the dreaded word. Perhaps that isn't surprising. Amusement parks get a lot of daily foot traffic, they're often spread over vast areas, and visitors spend much of their time between attractions consuming snacks and drinks that generate a lot of garbage. Yet even in that category, the Six Flags chain stands out. Not only did the New England site top the list with 4.71% "dirty" reviews, but three other sites made the Top 10: Six Flags Over Georgia (3.53%), Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey (2.35%), and Six Flags Great America in Illinois (2.28%). So what do we know about Six Flags, and why is it so filthy?

Why are Six Flags amusement parks so popular?

Six Flags prides itself as the largest regional theme park franchise in the world, with 27 sites in North America and Mexico welcoming over 30 million visitors each year. Not only is the New England site regarded as one of the best amusement parks in the Northeast, but it is also home to SUPERMAN The Ride, one of the best roller coasters in America.

Founder Angus Wynne opened his first park in Texas in 1961. He aimed to make a fun day out cheaper and more accessible by building sites nearer to where the masses lived. Since then, the company has spread across North America, with theme parks in carefully chosen locations to cover whole regions of the United States.

Not all Six Flags parks are new builds. Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, New York, was formerly an amusement park called Storytown USA, and Six Flags New England also took over from a much older attraction. Originally built in 1870, Gallup's Grove was renamed Riverside Park in 1912 and remained that way until the Six Flags group acquired it in 2000. You can still get a taste of the old park by taking a ride on the Thunderbolt, a classic rollercoaster constructed in 1941. The park sprawls over 200 acres with more than 100 rides and attractions, earning a reputation as one of the very best amusement parks in New England.

Are Tripadvisor reviews a reliable indication of the destination?

It's interesting to consider how accurate or useful this analysis is: 4.71% of reviews equates to roughly 5 reviewers out of every 100, which doesn't seem like a lot. At the same time, there are many ways to say a place is dirty without using that word, which would not have been captured in the analysis. For example: A one-star review from 2023 states, "The bathrooms stink like pee" and never uses the word "dirty." However, the fact that Six Flags theme parks occupy four spots in the 10 dirtiest attractions suggests that hygiene standards are a factor across the chain.

All that said, cleanliness doesn't appear to be the sole issue at the park. A look at the 100 most recent one-star reviews reveals that while hygiene is a concern, it isn't the main issue for many visitors. Some of the worst reviews relate to pricing and park management, with disgruntled visitors calling it a "ripoff" or a "scam." Many reviewers report issues with rude staff, overcrowding, closed rides, security, and an awkward lost & found procedure. Several guests complained that it was difficult to reclaim missing items, with one visitor in 2019 even claiming that opportunistic staff were stealing mobile devices. 

Cleanliness isn't an issue for everybody. Several reviews mention low hygiene standards but still give Six Flags New England five stars. The takeaway is: While Upgraded Points' dirtiness analysis makes for eye-catching headlines, it's best to delve a little deeper before making up your mind on a destination.